Frugality is quite popular these days, but it’s hardly a novel concept. Frugality kept many families going during wartime and the Great Depression, and it has the power to improve our homes and lives today.
While circumstances can force us into frugality, and that’s not much fun, you can also enjoy life while being frugal. Here are some great ways to make a thrifty lifestyle a joyful choice and not a burden.
First, clarify your why
Why do you want to be a frugal person? What benefits will a frugal lifestyle bring that you can’t find any other way? To make your frugality a joyful choice, you need to have a solid reason for it.
Most of us don’t live frugally for the sheer fun of it—at least not at first. You probably have a reason to be frugal. Perhaps you’re saving for a downpayment on a home, paying off student loan debt, or reducing your budget to enjoy greater career freedom.
You must have a reason for being frugal that is greater than your desire to spend money.
Clarify why you're planning to be more frugal. (You might have several reasons). Every time you struggle with forgoing a purchase to save money, remind yourself of the purpose behind it. You must have a reason for being frugal that is greater than your desire to spend money.
Your reasons are likely things that will add to your happiness one day. Buying a home, becoming debt-free, or cutting back on work hours may significantly improve your life, so those goals are worth the effort to be frugal.
7 strategies to make frugal living more enjoyable
1. Try a frugality challenge
Join a no-spend challenge where you only spend money on essentials for a month to see how much money you might save. This kind of thing isn’t meant to be a long-term change in habits, although some people might continue after the challenge is over.
The point of a frugality challenge or no-spend month (or year) is to reset your baseline. Change the default of how much money you spend each month. You may struggle at first, but it gets easier the longer you avoid spending.
When the month of extreme frugality is over, don’t automatically resume spending at your former levels.
When the month of extreme frugality is over, don’t automatically resume spending at your former levels. Take some time to evaluate how you felt, what triggers tempted you, and what things you discovered you don’t really need or want anymore.
It’s OK if you start spending a bit more again, but be mindful about what you purchase. It’s like the Konmari method of decluttering your house, except with your finances: Let go of what is no longer serving you, and joyfully spend on the things that matter.
2. Focus on gratitude
Gratitude can make you a happier person. When you think about what you’re grateful for, it’s pretty hard to dwell on what you don’t have. Research has shown people who regularly express gratitude often feel more positive emotions, savor good experiences, and improve their health.
It’s much easier to save your money when you focus on your blessings. Writing a list of things you’re grateful for daily can help you feel more content and less likely to crave the temporary high of buying something new.
You can still have so much without spending a lot.
Frugality doesn’t take away things you enjoy. Yes, it often means shopping around to get a lower price or doing without something you didn’t need. But you can still have so much without spending a lot.
Examples of things that might be on your gratitude list:
- Running water
- Internet service
- Virtual connectivity to friends and family across the globe
- Food and drink
- Modern conveniences (electricity, dishwashers, lawnmowers, etc.)
3. Notice the benefits of frugality
The longer you follow a frugal lifestyle, the more benefits you’ll observe. As you forgo spending on things that perhaps were luxuries, pay attention to the benefits you experience, whether expected or unexpected. Some of the common benefits you might see include:
- Feelings of joy for the small things
- Preferring homemade meals to dining out
- Appreciation for what you have
- No more temptation to buy to impress people
- Learning a new skill
- Adopting other, healthier habits
The more you appreciate the benefits of your frugality, the easier it will become to keep following frugal principles.
4. Make bargain-hunting a game
When you need or want something, look for low- or no-cost ways to get it. Buy Nothing groups, Facebook Marketplace, local garage sales, or thrift stores may have the item you’re seeking for much less (or even free).
Frugality often means spending a little more time researching the item you need before rushing out and buying it. But you usually don’t need something instantly and can afford to wait a few days, weeks, or months. That time can save you a great deal of money. Plus, you get to enjoy the satisfaction of snagging a great deal.
5. Enjoy learning to DIY
If you’re just starting with frugal living, you may find yourself trying to fix something you usually would have replaced. Do-it-yourself tasks are an opportunity to learn.
Look at frugality as a part of your identity rather than a difficult phase.
When you choose to repair or reuse something rather than replacing it with a new one, think about how cool it is to learn something new. My husband loves YouTube for teaching him a ton of valuable skills, such as how to replace car brakes. Yes, this takes more of his time in a hands-on way, but he enjoys the challenge, saves money, and guess what? Now he knows how to do the same job in the future, saving us money for years to come.6. Make frugality your identity, not a phase
Look at frugality as a part of your identity rather than a difficult phase. Habits expert James Clear writes about this in his bestselling book Atomic Habits: “To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits.”
For instance, rather than stating your goal as “I want to save $200 this month,” try identifying yourself as someone who is joyfully frugal. Reframing your identity by saying, “I’m a frugal person” can be more effective than thinking, “I can’t wait until I can start spending money again.” All those little spending decisions are more manageable when you view everything as a means of honoring your values rather than temporarily denying yourself something.
7. Cultivate an abundance mindset
Consider how you talk about money in your day-to-day life. Try to pay attention to what you think and say about money throughout a typical week.
You’re making an intentional choice to prioritize what matters.
If you often say things like “I can’t afford that,” you’re negatively framing your frugality. But if you say something like “I choose not to spend money on that,” you put the power in your hands. You’re making an intentional choice to prioritize what matters.
There’s a subtle yet essential difference in these perspectives. If you have a scarcity mindset where you don’t have enough and you always want more, it won’t get you anywhere. But if you cultivate an abundance mindset, you’ll see opportunities for the future and believe in your ability to realize those opportunities.
Frugality is fun … for real!
Honestly, frugality is a fantastic lifestyle that brings me endless joy every day. It’s exciting to look for ways to save money without sacrificing any of the things you love to do. I hope you’ll start finding the joy in frugality too.